One-hundred years ago this spring John Pliska, a Midland blacksmith, aided by local auto mechanic Gary Coggin, completed construction and test flew his own airplane after witnessing the stop over of the Wright Brothers’ Model B aircraft in Midland in 1911. Though he dropped $1,500 on engine costs, Pliska’s aircraft was greatly underpowered and could only withstand brief flights of 15 minutes at a time.
According to “The Pioneer History of Midland County,” “The open-cockpit craft, made mostly from buggy and windmill parts, had a 33-foot wingspan, a 27.5-foot fuselage and was 7.5 feet high.” Pliska, according to the Texas State Handbook Online, would make his biplane less airworthy when he replaced a cheap canvas with a more expensive balloon silk on the wings. It was not until after Pliska’s repeated tinkering with the craft that it was finally able to fly 1-2 miles between rests.
The Pliska Plane hangs today over the baggage claim area at Midland International Airport.
-- Jimmy Patterson